Friday, August 20, 2010
By JONATHAN J. COOPER
PHOENIX – An unattended campfire and a suspicious forest ranger led to the arrest of two of the most wanted fugitives in the U.S., ending a three-week nationwide manhunt that drew hundreds of false sightings, authorities said.
End of the road, buddy - you're going back to the Big House . . .
Check out that hero over there on the right . . .
Authorities arrested McCluskey, 45, and his alleged accomplice Casslyn Welch, 44, at a campsite in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona.
It was a peaceful close to a manhunt that authorities had said was likely to end in a bloody shootout between officers and desperate outlaws who fancied themselves as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.
Pretty rough looking Bonnie and Clyde . . .
Welch, who is McCluskey's fiancee and cousin, reached for a weapon but dropped it when she realized she was outgunned by a swarming SWAT team, said David Gonzales, U.S. marshal for Arizona.
Officers apprehended McCluskey without incident after finding him lying in a sleeping bag outside a tent. He told authorities he had a gun in his tent and would have shot them if he had been able to reach for it.
John McCluskey fled July 30 with two other inmates from a private prison in northwest Arizona and evaded authorities in at least six states before being caught Thursday evening just 300 miles east of the prison.
THEY JUST WALKED OUT OF THERE . . .
Corrections officials said that Welch helped McCluskey and fellow inmates Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick escape from the private prison near Kingman by cutting through a security fence.
The arrests came hours after officials discussed a report that outlined a series of embarrassing security breakdowns that allowed the escape.
The prison has a badly defective alarm system, a perimeter post was unstaffed, an outside dormitory door had been propped open with a rock and the alarms went off so often that prison personnel often just ignored them, the report said. Also, operational practices often led to a gap of 15 minutes or longer during shift changes along the perimeter fence, Ryan said.
Prison staff told a review team that the dormitory door was left open because of the heavy amount of foot traffic. That open door allowed the three inmates to reach a 10-foot chain-linked fence that hadn't been topped with razor wire. They scaled that fence and hid out for a time behind a building in an area that isn't visible to staff from the yard.
Using wire cutters, which Welch tossed into the prison yard shortly before the 9 p.m. shift change, the inmates cut a 30-by-22-inch hole and held the fence back with a dog leash.